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The Mountain Path: A climber's journey through life and death

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Writes Paul Pritchard, the best thing that ever happened to him was when a lump of rock fell from above, struck him on the skull like an axe and left him hemiplegic, effectively with half a working body. He has emerged from that life-changing incident not with bitterness and regret, but with acceptance and a peace that he would not have otherwise found.

In The Mountain Path, Pritchard tells of this and other occasions on which he narrowly dodged death - and even one occasion when he actually did die, if only for 10 minutes. If you’re already assuming this book will be packed with rufty tufty stiff upper lip British (or Northern - he’s from Bolton) death-defying bravado, then forget it. Paul is a modest, slightly crazy, adventurous and intelligent person who instead has written a book of such insight and awareness that it’s hard to believe he ever suffered any cranial damage at all.

His survival story is remarkable, up there with Touching the Void, but what makes Paul’s book truly fascinating is how he has embraced his disability not only with strength, but with a remarkable personal philosophy which he has cultivated from sources as varied as the Buddha, Albert Einstein and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Climbers often talk about achieving a kind of ‘transcendence’ or ‘freedom’ when they are on the wall, but few can examine it, describe it or explain it as well as Pritchard.

All of us have had emotional moments of realisation in our lives when we have come face to face with the shocking vastness of infinity, the universe, the Milky Way.. but Pritchard somehow explores this unpretentiously and without sounding like a slightly drunk student. His writing is good, his climbing even better. One seems to have unlocked the other. Paul Pritchard is nothing short of a climbing legend who got very unlucky on The Totem Pole - a needle of rock off the coast of Tasmania which is just four metres square at its base yet pokes 65 metres out of the sea, waving about in the breeze. Like Paul, it shouldn’t really be still standing, but there it is.

Greg Hackett

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